The novel coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 98 million people around the world, with over 2.1 million fatalities. Here are updates for January 23:

Paramedics transfer a patient outside the Royal London Hospital, amid coronavirus outbreak, in London, Britain, January 23, 2021.
Paramedics transfer a patient outside the Royal London Hospital, amid coronavirus outbreak, in London, Britain, January 23, 2021. (Reuters)

Saturday, January 23, 2021:

UK's total deaths from virus at 97,329

Britain has vaccinated 478,248 people in the 24 hours with a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, a daily record according to government figures, as the total death toll from the virus nears the 100,000 mark, standing at 97,329.

Government data showed that the total number of people who have had a first dose of the vaccine now stands at 5.86 million.

The country also reported 1,348 deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday, a slight fall from the previous day when there were 1,401 fatalities. 

There were 33,552 new cases of the virus recorded, a drop from the 40,261 reported on Friday.

Italy reports 488 coronavirus deaths and 13,331 new cases

Italy has reported 488 coronavirus-related deaths, up from 472 the day before, while the daily tally of new infections fell further to 13,331 from 13,633.

Some 286,331 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, against a previous 264,728, the Health Ministry said.

Italy has now registered 85,162 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak came to light last February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the sixth-highest in the world. 

The country has reported 2.46 million cases.

Patients in the hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 21,403 on Saturday, compared with 21,691 a day earlier.

Turkey reports over 5,800 new coronavirus cases

Turkey has reported 5,856 new coronavirus infections, including 723 symptomatic patients, according to Health Ministry data.

Turkey's current case tally passed 2.42 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 24,933, with 144 more fatalities over the past day.

As many as 5,811 more patients in the country won the battle against the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to over 2.3 million.

More than 28.34 million coronavirus tests have been conducted in Turkey to date, with 152,758 done since Friday.

The latest figures show that the number of Covid-19 patients in critical condition dropped to 1,962.

Israel expands vaccination campaign to teens

Israel has begun administering Covid-19 vaccines to teenagers as it pushed ahead with its inoculation drive, with a quarter of the population now vaccinated, health officials said.

Since the rollout of vaccinations one month ago, more than 2.5 million of Israel's nine-million-strong population have been vaccinated already, the health ministry said.

Expanding the campaign to include teens came days after Israel extended on Tuesday till the end of the month its third national coronavirus lockdown due to a surge in coronavirus infections. 

The health ministry had on Thursday announced it was allowing the inoculation of high school students aged 16-18, subject to parental approval.

The country's largest health fund, Clalit, was already giving teens shots as of Saturday morning, its website said, while the three smaller funds were due to kick off their campaign later.

Russia signs deal with Turkey on vaccine production

Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF has signed an agreement with Turkey on the production of its Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19, the Interfax news agency reported.

RDIF added that it had begun transferring the production technology to Turkey.

RDIF has also signed deals to produce Sputnik V with manufacturers in South Korea, China, India, Brazil, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Portugal breaks its daily record for cases and deaths 

Portugal has reported 15,333 coronavirus cases and 274 deaths, breaking records on both fronts as it struggles to bring a post-Christmas surge in the pandemic under control.

The country of 10 million people, which fared better than many others in the first wave of the pandemic, now has the world's highest seven-day rolling average of new cases and deaths per million people, according to data tracker ourworldindata.org.

Malaysia reports 4,275 new cases, highest daily infections

Malaysia health authorities have reported 4,275 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily infections so far, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 180,455.

The Southeast Asian country also reported seven new fatalities, bringing the total number of deaths to 667.

Iran to begin Covid-19 vaccinations in coming weeks

President Hassan Rouhani has said that Covid-19 vaccinations will begin in the coming weeks in Iran, the Middle East's worst hit country.

"Foreign vaccines are a necessity until local vaccines are available," Rouhani said in televised remarks, without giving details of what foreign vaccines would be used.

Earlier this month Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, banned the government from importing vaccines from the United States and Britain, which he said were possibly seeking to spread the infection to other countries.

Rouhani himself, in compliance with Khamenei's ban, said at the time that his government would purchase "safe foreign vaccines."

Norway's capital tightens lockdown to combat virus variant

Norway's capital Oslo and nine neighbouring municipalities will impose some of their toughest lockdown measures yet after an outbreak of a more contagious coronavirus variant, first identified in Britain, the government said.

Shopping centres and other non-essential stores will be closed from noon local time, organised sports activities will be halted and schools must rely more on remote learning, the health ministry said in a statement. 

Strict virus measures for Club World Cup in Qatar

The Club World Cup will be staged with strict measures to combat the spread of the virus, the Qatari organisers said less than two weeks before the tournament which will be closed to overseas fans.

It is due to get underway on February 4 with spectator numbers capped at 30 percent of capacity at each of the two 40,000-seat grounds which will host games.

UAE seeks to allay Danish concerns over pre-flight virus tests

The United Arab Emirates said it was in contact with Danish authorities to "clarify the details" of the concerns over virus testing that prompted them to suspend flights.

Danish Transport Minister Benny Engelbrecht announced earlier on Friday that all commercial air traffic from the UAE would be suspended for five days over concerns that its  pre-flight virus tests were not rigorous enough. 

All air passengers arriving in Denmark need to show a negative virus test from the previous 24 hours, but Engelbrecht said Danish authorities want to be sure there were no botched screenings or tests that had been bought in Dubai – one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.

Sri Lankan health minister tests positive for Covid-19 after endorsing sorcery

Sri Lanka's health minister, who publicly endorsed sorcery and magic potions to stop surging coronavirus infections in the island, has tested positive and will self-isolate, officials said.

Pavithra Wanniarachchi had publicly consumed and endorsed a magic potion, later revealed to contain honey and nutmeg, manufactured by a sorcerer who claimed it worked as a life-long inoculation against the virus.

She also poured a pot of "blessed" water into a river in November after a self-styled god-man told her that it would end the pandemic.

Theatre, cinema, concerts thrive in Madrid despite virus

With entertainment venues shuttered across much of Europe, Spain stands out as a cultural oasis where people still go to the theatre and cinema or watch concerts despite soaring infection rates.

"Having the chance to be here with you is a huge blessing and with all my heart I applaud the great efforts being made in this country to defend culture," Mexican tenor Javier Camarena told Madrid's Theatre Royal last week after going months without performing on stage.

In the audience were 1,200 people in suits, fur coats and masks, often the FFP2 type, after having their temperature taken as part of a meticulous safety protocol.

Wuhan marks a year since lockdown

The Chinese city of Wuhan marked one year since the start of its traumatic 76-day coronavirus lockdown.

Traffic hummed, sidewalks bustled, and citizens packed parks and public transport in Wuhan, underscoring the scale of the recovery in the metropolis of 11 million where the pathogen first emerged before going global.

Thailand reports 198 new coronavirus cases, 1 death

Thailand reported 198 new coronavirus cases, bringing its total number of infections to 13,302 since the outbreak began last year.

The new cases included 18 imported cases and one additional death, taking the total number of coronavirus-related fatalities to 72, a Covid-19 taskforce said. 

Germany's confirmed virus cases rise by 16,417 - RKI

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 16,417 to 2,122,679, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 879 to 51,521, the tally showed. 

Australia's Victoria logs 17 days with no community cases

Australia's Victoria state recorded its 17th straight day without any new local virus cases as officials focus on keeping the community separated from staff and players here for next month's Australia Open.

As many as 72 players have been confined to their hotel rooms for two weeks upon arrival and unable to train for the February 8-21 Grand Slam after passengers on three charter flights tested positive.

That's led to complaints from some frustrated tennis players, although others have urged their fellow competitors to show more respect for the efforts by the state, which went through one of the world's strictest and longest lockdowns last year, to stamp out the virus.

Idaho confused over who get vaccinated first

Limited virus vaccine availability, confusion over which Idaho residents should be vaccinated first and rumours of line-jumpers are all complicating the Idaho state’s vaccine rollout.

Members of Idaho’s Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee met to help clarify exactly who should have first dibs on the state’s doses.

Sarah Leeds with the Idaho Immunisation Program says the demand is far higher than the doses available. So far, the federal government has distributed more than 178,000 doses to Idaho. That’s a rate of about 9,970 doses for every 100,000 residents, putting Idaho near the bottom compared to the allotment given other states.

California reports one-day record of 764 deaths

California is reporting a one-day record of 764 deaths but the rate of new infections is falling.

The deaths reported by the California Department of Public Health top the previous mark of 708 set on January 8. In the last two days California has recorded 1,335 deaths.

Hospitalisations and newly confirmed cases have been falling, however, and health officials are growing more optimistic that the worst of the latest surge is over.

The 23,024 new cases reported are less than half the mid-December peak of nearly 54,000. Hospitalisations have fallen below 20,000, a drop of more than 10 percent in two weeks.

Severe reaction to Moderna vaccine 'rare' – US study

Severe allergic reaction to Moderna's virus vaccine is "rare," US health authorities said, with only 10 cases arising from more than four million first doses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also emphasised that widespread vaccination was critical to fighting the pandemic.

The CDC data documented the 10 cases of anaphylactic shock among a reported 4,041,396 first doses administered between December 21 and January 10.

Pfizer offers 40 million shots to poorer countries at cost

Pfizer announced that it will provide up to 40 million of its vaccine doses to poorer countries on a non-profit basis, through the globally-pooled Covax facility.

While dozens of the world's richer countries have begun their vaccination campaigns in a bid to curb the pandemic, virus jabs have been few and far between in the world's poorer nations.

Covax – the globally-pooled coronavirus vaccine procurement and equitable distribution effort, aimed at ensuring that lower-income countries get hold of doses too – is hoping to ship its first deliveries in February.

Florida to require proof of residence for Covid vaccines

Florida will require proof of residence for those getting a Covid shot in a push to thwart so-called "vaccine tourism," a move experts say could also leave thousands of undocumented immigrants, homeless and low-income people in the lurch.

The decision came after residents of other states and even people from abroad were reportedly arriving in  Florida – which currently vaccinates anyone over age 65 – with an aim of gaining easier access to immunisation.

While the state has administered more than 1.3 million doses, the process has been slow and chaotic.

In a public advisory issued Thursday, Florida's Surgeon General Scott Rivkees indicated that applicants must show proof of residence – such as driver's license, utility bill or letter from a bank – in order to be immunised.

Too early to draw Covid origin conclusions – WHO

The World Health Organization said it was too early to draw any conclusions from its mission to Wuhan as to whether the Covid-19 pandemic started in China.

A team of WHO experts arrived in Wuhan on January 14 to start probing the origins of the deadly coronavirus, more than a year after the first cases were detected in the central Chinese city.

They were whisked to a hotel to complete a two-week quarantine.

Hong Kong begins two day lockdown 

Thousands of Hong Kongers were ordered to stay home in the city's first virus lockdown as authorities attempt to test everyone inside a densely-packed district struck by a wave of infections.

The order was made overnight and covers multiple housing blocks in the neighbourhood of Jordan in Kowloon.

"Persons subject to compulsory testing are required to stay in their premises until all such persons identified in the area have undergone testing and the test results are mostly ascertained," the government said in a statement, adding it planned to complete testing in 48 hours.

New York state runs out of vaccines

New York state has run out of virus vaccines, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, increasing pressure on President Joe Biden's administration to speed up deliveries.

"NYS will use up our first dose vaccine allocations today. But our next allocation is coming throughout the week," Cuomo wrote on Twitter.

"Providers should ONLY schedule appointments for allocations they know they'll receive. We want to avoid all cancelations," he added.

China reports 107 new mainland cases

China reported 107 new virus cases on the mainland on January 22, up from 103 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 90 of the new cases were local infections. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 99 from 119 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 88,911, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,635. 

Mexico reports 21,007 new cases

Mexico's Health Ministry has reported 21,007 new confirmed cases of virus infection and 1,440 additional fatalities, bringing the country's total to 1,732,290 cases and 147,614 deaths.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Rio scraps 2021 carnival 

Rio de Janeiro will not host its famous carnival this year due to a deadly revival of the coronavirus epidemic in Brazil, the city's mayor Eduardo Paes has announced.

Rio's samba schools, which organize the celebratory parades, had hoped to hold the signature event in July after it was postponed from its usual slot in February or March.

But this depended on a national vaccination campaign being well and truly under way.

In reality, Brazil's inoculation drive only started on Monday with an initial six million doses available for the country's 212 million inhabitants.

The carnival draws millions of visitors, and their tourist dollars, to the beachside city each year.

But in a tweet late Thursday, Paes said it seemed "foolish to imagine at this point that the conditions will exist for us to hold the carnival in July" while hospitals – especially in Brazil's northern Amazonas state – scramble for beds and oxygen to treat coronavirus patients.

Belgium bans foreign tourism

Belgium is banning residents from taking vacations abroad until March to limit the spread of more infectious coronavirus variants and avoid a deadly third wave.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference on Friday the government had decided to prohibit travel into or out of Belgium for recreation or tourism from Jan 27 to March 1.

The country wants to avoid a repeat of last winter when Belgians went on Alpine ski holidays, bringing the virus back with them, or the Christmas-New Year period when 160,000 residents ignored government advice and took trips abroad.

"When people travel, the virus travels with them and we also have seen, from sampling of tests, that people who have travelled show more cases of the variants than those that have not," De Croo said.

People can still cross borders for essential trips, such as for work or for medical treatment.

Biden says virus expected to kill 'well over 600,000' in US

President Joe Biden said the Covid-19 death toll in the United States, the world's hardest-hit country in the pandemic, is expected to top 600,000.

"The virus is surging. We're 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000," he told a news conference, giving his highest estimate yet for the US outbreak's eventual death toll.

"Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted. Job losses are mounting again. We need to act," Biden said, before signing executive orders targeting the food crisis affecting millions of Americans.

Biden also urged Congress to move fast on his $1.9 trillion plan to battle Covid-19 and provide economic relief to struggling Americans.

More than 150 National Guard in Washington for inauguration infected

Between 150 and 200 National Guard deployed to Washington, DC, to provide security for President Joe Biden's inauguration have tested positive for the coronavirus, a US official said.

The US government imposed unprecedented security measures in the city following the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, including fences topped with razor wire and checkpoints manned by National Guard.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the number of National Guard troops who tested positive could rise but was still a small fraction of the more than 25,000 troops deployed in city over the past few days.

Brazil receives vaccine cargo from India amid supply shortage

Brazil's government has received 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine from India, but experts warned the shipment will do little to shore up an insufficient supply in South America’s biggest nation.

Brazil’s Health Ministry announced that the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, landed in Sao Paulo before being flown to Rio de Janeiro, where Brazil’s state-run Fiocruz Institute is based. Fiocruz has an agreement to produce and distribute the vaccine.

The 2 million doses from India only scratch the surface of the shortfall, Brazilian public health experts told The Associated Press, as far more doses will be needed to cover priority groups in the nation of 210 million people, and shipments of raw materials from Asia have been delayed.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies